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Red Bull introduces new car with "great innovation" without attracting much attention.
F1 Sport

Red Bull introduces new car with “great innovation” without attracting much attention.

Formula One’s season-opening salvo finally came to a close on Thursday when the last of this year’s challengers was unveiled by Red Bull. Pleasingly, given what for the most part has been a series of low-key whimpers with cars largely revealed online only with little fanfare and little detail, it ended with something of a bang. Red Bull have likely left their competitors feeling nervous before a wheel has turned in anger.

The launch of the RB20 had unsurprisingly been dominated by the appearance of Christian Horner, the team principal, who was speaking publicly for the first time since an investigation was launched almost two weeks ago after a complaint from an employee about his conduct.

Despite continuously denying the validity of the accusations, he made efforts to promote the new car being showcased at the event. However, his efforts were mostly in vain. Until the investigation is completed, Horner will remain equally in the spotlight as his car.

Their rivals, on the other hand, would have been closely monitoring the debut of the new ride. As the RB20 emerged into view, it likely elicited a surprised reaction.

For the past two years, Red Bull has been the reigning force in F1 racing. Their approach to the 2022 regulations, spearheaded by their technical director Adrian Newey, focused on utilizing ground effect aerodynamics, resulting in an impressive design that could not be matched by any other team.

One year later, Red Bull’s competitors were expected to catch up and challenge their speed. However, this did not happen and the reigning world champions were surprised when they continued to widen the gap. They achieved an incredible streak of 21 victories out of 22 races with their RB19.

The team realized during the middle of the season that there would be less benefit from further development, as they felt they were already pushing the limits of the regulations. They planned to make small improvements to their already excellent package for 2024, and expected their competitors to catch up in terms of speed as they approached Red Bull’s design.

Instead of taking a conservative approach to evolution, Red Bull unveiled an aggressive strategy on Thursday focused on development, innovation, and experimentation. Rather than making small changes for incremental improvements, they have taken a bold approach in order to push the limits.

Last season, the only area where the car struggled was in slow speed corners, although it was not a major weakness. This made it more susceptible to competition on street circuits like Monaco and Singapore. In fact, the only race it lost was in Marina Bay to Carlos Sainz from Ferrari. This must have been frustrating for the team, as they have clearly made efforts to improve in this aspect. Considering the car’s strengths in other areas, it is likely that their innovation is focused on addressing this one flaw.

The season has yet to begin, but it’s possible that Newey and his team’s goal was to construct a car that could win the elusive, undefeated championship.

The design stood out for its bold departure from the norm, with noticeable similarities to the Mercedes design used for two unsuccessful seasons before being abandoned in 2024. Key elements included the vertical sidepod inlets, reminiscent of Mercedes’ controversial zero-sidepod design that has since been discarded, and a bulge under the engine cover similar to the cooling feature on last year’s Mercedes.

Red Bull’s dominant world champion, Max Verstappen, even admitted to the similarities when questioned about it. “I would still classify it as a Red Bull style, but I understand what you’re getting at,” he remarked.

Max Verstappen (left) and Sergio Peréz pose for a selfie with the new Red Bull RB20.

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Horner stated that the modifications were based on performance research and were supported by simulation, which further supported the team’s ambitious approach. He emphasized that it was not a traditional progression, but rather an exciting innovation.

At the car’s launch, Newey also displayed a calm assurance, indicating that this was not a blind attempt.

Mercedes, to be fair, have not simply followed last year’s Red Bull template as other teams have but also demonstrated innovation of their own, in their sidepod configuration, in moving their cockpit back, as had been requested by Lewis Hamilton, and on rear and front wings.

However, it cannot be ignored that the team will be extremely frustrated if Red Bull successfully implements the sidepod design they had high hopes for, but had to give up on.

The outcome of this situation is uncertain – it’s possible that Red Bull has once again surpassed their competitors or reached a dead end. However, this is just speculation for now and will soon be revealed. In a few days, testing will begin in Bahrain for three days, followed by the first race on March 2nd at the Sakhir circuit. With limited time, all parties involved will likely reveal their strategies.

Unfortunately, Verstappen has a feeling of foreboding as he believes Red Bull has regained their advantage for winning. He expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance, stating that they had a strong package. Additionally, he appreciated their determination to push the limits and improve even further.

Source: theguardian.com